A tall ask for a single education system

community-peopleLukas Hogg, sixth form student, Heathfield Community College, writes…

As Albert Einstein once said: “education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.” I believe that the purpose of education should be to create well-balanced individuals who contribute positively to society while fulfilling their own potential, be that academic, creative, practical or technical.

But what does society really need from its individuals? The simple answer is that there is no simple answer. Societies’ needs are varied: as neighbours we need to learn to treat others with courtesy; as employers, we want skills that are relevant to the actual workplace; as a community, we need to accept each other and our differences so that we can live and thrive together.

This is a tall ask for a single education system.

Then there’s the individual. I believe an individual’s sense of fulfilment comes from achieving their potential, having emotional, mental and physical wellbeing and an acknowledgement of their contributions to society.

An individual’s sense of fulfilment comes from achieving their potential… wellbeing… and an acknowledgement of their contributions to society

Good education will create the pathway between the needs of society and the individual. It has to cater for great academic minds by letting them devour knowledge, if that is what they wish to do. It equally must cater for individuals who may have ‘learning difficulties’ and whose goals are more practical.

In an ideal world, education needs to support students in different ways based on their innate skillsets. But currently the system fails to recognise that not everyone is academic. The only goal we seem to have is achieving A* grades. Recent government policies on education imply that only academic minds have any use in society. I fundamentally believe and hope that academia is not the be all and end all of education – otherwise how boring would that be for most of us! Where’s the creativity?

Which brings me to consider the ‘elephant in the room’, grammar schools. I see nothing wrong with having schools for the academically gifted, which may surprise you as what you might not know is that I have severe dyslexia, and definitely wouldn’t have got into a grammar school. But grammar schools are fine, they can be great. But only if we also have amazing, valued schools that cater for the creative, practical or technical among us. Going to one of these schools should label you not as ‘dumb’ but perhaps as ‘different, in a good way’.

There’s nothing wrong with grammar schools – if we also have amazing, valued schools that cater for the creative, practical or technical among us

Thankfully my parents have always believed in me and I live in an area with an outstanding school just down the road, which has taken the time needed to recognise and acknowledge my individual needs. So with this support, I was able to gain the platform to share the views at the SSAT annual lecture and debate in September 2016. Which gave me confidence that my ideas mattered, that I can still add value to the debate.

I started with Einstein and will end with Jeannie Fulbright’s summary of education: “if the purpose of learning is to score well on a test, we’ve lost sight of the real reason for learning.” Whether we’re talking about grammar, free, academy or comprehensive schools, we have to change our views about what success in education looks like. Academics are praised for their good grades but rewarded only with student loans and burdensome debt. Non-academics are immediately swept under the carpet of society into low paid jobs because they’re ‘not intelligent enough’ to warrant any more investment.

If we are to recognise the value of all individuals in society, this attitude must change – because everyone, even those of us who can’t spell, can add value to society.

Even those of us who can’t spell can add value to society

We were delighted to give Lukas the chance to speak at our recent annual lecture and debate. His school Heathfield Community College is connected to thousands of other schools across the country through it’s participation in the SSAT network. Find out more about getting involved.

Heathfield head Caroline Barlow contributed to our recent school finance publication Triumph in adversity. Download a copy.

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